The King's Bed
Sex, Power and the Court of Charles II
Charles II was obsessed by women, and his conquests ranged across the classes, from the actress Nell Gwyn to the aristocrat Barbara Villiers. For the first time, this revealing book places the king’s compulsive philandering at the centre of an account of his reign. Taking us behind the scenes, it introduces a colourful cast of court favourites, politicians and a parade of mistresses fighting for influence over a king ruled – and ruined – by his passions.
Into the Arms of Strangers
Stories of the Kindertransport
The violence in Germany on 9 November 1938, Kristallnacht, awakened public opinion in Britain to the Nazi threat, and one response to the plight of Jews in Germany and Austria was the system of evacuations set up by the Refugee Children’s Movement. The historian David Cesarini introduces this collection of stories – told in their own words – of men and women who came to Britain as child refugees as part of the scheme, known informally as the Kindertransport.
Crown of Blood
The Deadly Inheritance of Lady Jane Grey
In 1553, 17-year-old Lady Jane Grey was proclaimed Queen of England to prevent the accession of Henry VIII’s Catholic daughter Mary. Thirteen days later she was imprisoned in the Tower, and in February 1554 she was beheaded. This narrative history draws on previously overlooked sources to create a vivid and engaging portrait of an intelligent, charismatic and deeply religious girl caught up in the power politics of her age, whose courage shone through her final, harrowing ordeal.
Gunpowder and Geometry
Charles Hutton had started work as a pit boy in a coal mine in the 1740s but a school in Newcastle nurtured him, first as pupil and then as teacher, and by the time he was 40, he was a Fellow of the Royal Society. This biography follows his meteoric rise and describes his contributions to mathematics, including work on the force of gunpowder and calculating the mass of the Earth.
The Rises and Falls of Whitaker Wright, the World's Most Shameless Swindler
Whitaker Wright was a Victorian conman who made and lost a fortune by selling stock in companies that ultimately failed to deliver. This account of his exploits reveals the heights of his successes, with excesses including an underwater smoking room and a steam yacht where he entertained aristocrats, and his dramatic downfalls. Having fled from America to England, and then back again, he was finally convicted of financial fraud and committed suicide in the dock.
Emily Wilding Davison
The Martyr Suffragette
Emily Davison’s death beneath the king’s horse at the 1913 Derby has overshadowed the life that led up to it. Drawing on her own words and those of people who knew her, this biography charts the formative experiences of this intelligent, resourceful and determined woman: an education thwarted by lack of money, work as a governess, and involvement in campaigns about the injustices faced by women that resulted in her imprisonment and force-feeding.
His Untold Life from Berthierville to Zolder
A daring driving style and a tragic early death at the Belgian Grand Prix in 1982 have contributed to Gilles Villeneuve’s legendary status in Formula 1. Illustrated with photographs of the Ferrari star and his cars, on and off the track, this celebration of his career includes interviews with 48 leading figures in the sport, including Jody Scheckter, Bernie Ecclestone, Jochen Maas and Mario Andretti.
Touched by Greatness
The Story of Tom Graveney, England's Much-Loved Cricketer
Tom Graveney’s Test career began alongside pre-war star Len Hutton in the early 1950s and ended with him batting with Geoffrey Boycott in 1969. This biography describes his county and international career, his later work as a commentator and President of the MCC, and recalls many notable incidents, such as his ban in 1969 for playing an exhibition match in the middle of a Test.
The Man Who Said 'No' to England
In 1962, Footballer of the Year Adamson won runners up medals in the FA Cup and First Division; as Assistant Manager at the World Cup, he was offered the England manager’s job before Alf Ramsey. However, two decades later, he had walked away from his management career for a fiercely defended private life. Introduced by Bobby Charlton, this book revisits the remarkable career of an enigmatic sporting character.
A Writer's Life
Philip Larkin (1922–1985) was the ‘unofficial Poet Laureate’ whose approachable poems about ordinary life won popularity if not laurels: at his memorial service in 1986, Westminster Abbey was filled to overflowing with his admirers. In this authorized biography, Andrew Motion, one the poet’s two literary executors, draws on and quotes extensively from a huge amount of previously unpublished material – poems, letters, stories and unfinished novels – to set Larkin's work in context while charting the complex course of his life.
In My Mind's Eye
A Thought Diary
In 2017–18, at the start of her ‘tenth decade’, the popular historian, author of the Pax Britannica trilogy, and travel writer Jan Morris (b.1926) decided to keep a diary of thoughts. Ranging back and forth over an extraordinarily interesting life, but also examining the joys and frustrations of old age at home in North Wales, Morris’s 188-day diary treats us to her opinions on anything that comes to mind – be it Ovid, walls, whistling or Brexit. Slightly off-mint.
The Life and Choices of Lady Anne Barnard
Lady Anne Barnard lived at the heart of Georgian society – the Prince of Wales was a friend, and Walter Scott admired her verses – but her defiance of convention made her an outsider. Drawing on her unpublished papers, including six volumes of memoirs, this biography brings the poet, musician, artist and hostess vividly to life, and tells how she travelled to France to observe the Revolution, married an army officer twelve years her junior, and raised an illegitimate child.
The Maker of Modern France
A proud, indomitable, absolutist monarch, Francis I (1494–1547) ‘was the king that his country needed, if not the one it might have wished for’, and despite his achievements – in unifying and glorifying France and as the patron of art and architecture who recruited Leonardo da Vinci to his court and built Fontainebleau – Francis is remembered, if at all, for his failings. In this biography, Leonie Frieda offers a rigorous reassessment of the ‘Maker of Modern France’.
I Ran With the Gang
My Life In and Out of the Bay City Rollers
The bass player in the tartan-clad pop sensation from Edinburgh, Alan Longmuir was the first to tire of the endless touring and screaming teenagers and leave the band. His biography describes how the Rollers got to the top and gives his views on the acrimonious bust-ups and financial wranglings that followed.
Safe in Wartime Devon
Deposited with an aunt in Devon in 1939, Angela (12) and Hugh McBride (3) saw little of their parents for the next five years, moving between various boarding schools and lodgings and finally joining their family after the war on a posting to Australia. This record of their unusual experience is told as two separate memoirs, one by each of the siblings, highlighting their different perspectives on an eventful but unsettled upbringing.
The Strange Last Voyage of Donald Crowhurst
In 1968 Donald Crowhurst, an amateur sailor in an untested trimaran, amazed the public by taking the lead in the first solo round-the-world sailing race. Eight months later, his boat was found abandoned in mid-Atlantic. Based on interviews with family and friends, and Crowhurst’s logbook, this account of the stress that prompted him to deceive the world and suffer a mental breakdown formed the basis of the movie The Mercy, starring Colin Firth. Off-mint.
The Life of Vittoria Colonna
The scion of an immensely powerful family, Vittoria Colonna (1492–1547) was a celebrated beauty, and the first woman in Italy to publish a volume of poetry – devotional sonnets written, as she put it, ‘with Christ’s nails’. Drawing on extensive archival research, this biography charts her early marriage and long widowhood, her friendships with Michelangelo, the Emperor Charles V, and two popes, her passionate religious beliefs, and her key role in the Italian Renaissance.
A Journey with Cecil Beaton
With this remarkable compilation of photographs, artworks and quotations, Lisa Vreeland has created a vivid and multi-layered portrait of Cecil Beaton (1904–1980), drawing together the many strands of his personality and his art. The book is arranged in nine chapters, each one devoted to a facet of Beaton’s life or career: his special friendships, scrapbooks, the designs for dance, fashion photography, his work in New York and in Hollywood, and his portraits of artists, literary stars and fellow photographers.
The Strange Death of World War II's Most Audacious General
Having survived a spectacularly bloody campaign across Europe, America's most charismatic general, George Patton, was killed in a road accident near Mannheim, Germany, in December 1945. His brusque manner and outspoken nature had made him many enemies and his unexpected death has since provoked suspicion. This book analyses Patton's activities from October 1944 up to the fatal crash and investigates the circumstances of the accident to establish whether it might have been an assassination.
The Jazz Age Life of Henrietta Bingham
Emily Bingham uncovers the family legend of her great aunt Henrietta, using correspondence, contemporary documents and family photos. Born into a wealthy Kentucky family, she counted tennis champion Helen Jacobs and the actor John Houseman amongst her suitors and lovers, and in 1920s London she was muse to the Bloomsbury group and an early subject of Freudian analysis, but as the public mood hardened against homosexuality she was driven into addiction and breakdown.
I Am Brian Wilson
One of three brothers and a cousin who formed The Beach Boys in the early 1960s, Brian Wilson emerged as the leading creative force of the group. This autobiography explores the influences that nurtured his talent and the productive years of creativity, before his struggles with mental illness and drugs began, as well as his rehabilitation since the 1990s and the completion of his legendary abandoned album, Smile. Slightly off-mint.